(photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)
Written by Patrick Chavis
The human mind is a fascinating place. For all the technical advances we have made as human beings, how exactly the mind works is still a mystery. This is why we have fields like psychology, philosophy, and other branches of study that try to make sense of humanity and why we do the things we do. These mysteries and truths have been chronicled in stories, plays, and movies for decades. The Other Place, now playing at the Chance Theatre, is one more of these psychological stories — delving into the complexity of the human mind and its effect on our lives in a way that is somehow simultaneously comical and tragic.
The story of The Other Place centers around neurologist Juliana, played by Jacqueline Wright. In this play, the audience watches various painful moments in Juliana’s life, mixed with scenes set at a neurological conference. The mystery of Juliana is revealed, but only to a certain extent–as we soon realize the actual truth of Juliana’s story is a little more complicated than what we are led to believe.
I believe the confusing set-up of the play’s beginning to be intentional. Obviously, the writer is trying to lead you down a rabbit hole you don’t understand. But at the same time, when you go down this rabbit hole, you’ll probably find that you don’t care. You don’t know this lady; she hasn’t shown you anything remarkable about herself that makes the audience want to continue this journey with her. The “mystery” is not a mystery for too long as it’s made blatantly obvious pretty early on what’s taking place. You’re left with a joke that ties into something greater, but the joke isn’t really that funny. Although there is a moment tying the narrative together, there’s nothing new learned from this revelation at the end of the play.
The scene that held my attention the most was near the end of the play. There’s an actual comedic situation we see unfold between a random person (Krystyna Ahlers) and Juliana that’s quite compelling. This scene was one of the most captivating parts of the play. The scene could have been the play, but it’s relegated to the near ending. Without giving away any spoilers, the comedic situation mixed with the convincing emotional acting was funnier and more heartfelt than the forced comedic dialogue we are given for much of the play. Wright is excellent in this moment of the play, making me curious about Juliana’s fate.
The dramatic direction from Matthew McCray is quite solid, and the emotional beats are hit pretty well.
Chance Theatre takes on a challenging play with the help of two strong leads, Jacqueline Wright and Ron Hastings. The show misses the mark at creating an intriguing psychological mystery due to missed comedic and dramatic opportunities.